Dahlia show to present the Power of Pink
Eleven years ago, Jack Leatherwood had no idea that a mistaken purchase from a mail-order catalog would change his life forever.
Leatherwood accidently purchased three mysterious tubers from a plant catalog, and when he got them, he had no idea what they were or what to do with them — other than plant them — so he did.
What came up were dahlias, and gardening has never been the same for Leatherwood and his wife, Cindy, since then.
“I thought they were so pretty,” Jack said. “I went back and doubled the order the next year.”
Now a little more than a decade later, Jack plants more than 700 dahlia varieties in his garden at home on a mountainside just off Jonathan Creek Road.
“I tell people all the time they put a smile on your face, and they do that,” he said of his passion for the flowers. “You start growing them and then you realize their beauty and how drop-dead gorgeous they really are. If you’ve got a passion for growing … this is something you will absolutely love. People that grow flowers, I think, are happy people.”
Cindy joined in on Jack’s love for dahlias a few years ago when she started to make flower arrangements from them. One year, she decided to enter an arrangement in the state fair, and she won Best In Show.
Soon enough, she’d won more shows, and people started asking her to make arrangements for them.
“It’s sort of just taken off from there,” she said, adding she makes about 20 arrangements a week during dahlia season, which lasts from July to about October.
The Leatherwoods can be seen selling their flowers on Wednesday and Saturday mornings at the Historic Farmer’s Market in Waynesville, and as a member of the Carolinas Dahlia Society, they often enter dahlias and arrangements in shows.
The next show is coming up soon, and with a theme of the Power of Pink, a pink dahlia was chosen as the Flower of the Year for the 26th Annual Show of the Carolinas Dahlia Society. But more important than the color of the flower is the purpose behind this year’s event taking place Sept. 8 and 9 at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville.
Show chairman Ken Zulla said he wanted to incorporate the Power of Pink theme into the show because it would not only raise awareness about dahlias in the community, but it would help the society raise money to donate to the American Cancer Society in honor of those that have fought and continue to fight the battle against cancer.
“I knew of several of our members who’d had breast cancer. My father also had died from cancer,” Zulla said. “Once I mentioned the (Power of Pink) theme, there was such an enthusiastic aspect to this thing.”
While the dahlia show itself will exhibit hundreds of flowers of every shape, size and color from commercial and amateur growers from North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, half of the proceeds from the sale of dahlias at the show will go to the American Cancer Society.
“I grow dahlias, but I grow them for fun,” Zulla said, adding he can think of no better place for the money raised from selling the flowers to go to than an organization like the ACS.
And there is no doubt that people coming to the show will want to learn about and purchase the flowers. Zulla said people are usually so impressed with the huge variety of the flowers and their beauty; they want to know how to get them and grow them in their own gardens.
That was certainly Jack’s reaction to the flowers, and he said he is excited about this year’s theme.
“My primary objective is to furnish all of the cut flowers for the dahlia sale,” he said. “Several members in the society have had cancer and are survivors. We wanted to, in some small way, honor them.”
The show opens to the public from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. The show is free for Arboretum Society members or is open to the public for the standard parking fee of $8 per personal motor vehicle.
At 1 p.m. Saturday, a representative from the Asheville Chapter of the ACS will give a talk about cancer prevention titled “Join the Movement for More Birthdays.” Throughout the weekend, there will also be a variety of presentations on growing dahlias and flower arranging.
For information, call 665-2492 or visit www.ncarboretum.org.